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Human distractions remain biggest in-car threat

Held by the AA, the survey of 18,026 members asked “Have you been distracted, had a near miss or a crash caused by any of the following whilst driving over the past 12 months?” and found that 18% had been distracted by adult passengers.

The research also found that other, more traditional distractions still pose the biggest threat, as follows:

  • Twiddling with the radio – 16%
  • Children in the car – 14%
  • Operating the sat nav – 13%
  • Mobile phone conversation – 12%
  • Eating a sandwich – 9%
  • Drinking a coffee, water, etc – 7%
  • Texting – 5%
  • Emailing – 1%
  • Checking social media – 1%
  • Smoking – 1%

Overall, of the 6,867 respondents distracted, 548 (8%) had a near miss and 106 (1.5%) had a crash.

Latest government statistics show that driver distraction contributed to 88 deaths in 2012, of which 17 were attributed to mobile phone use. In-car distractions accounted for 5.5% of the 1,608 deaths in reported road accidents. Killed and serious injuries from distractions made up 664 or 3% of the reported 21,796 total, while slight injuries from distraction numbered 4,848 or 3.5% of the 136,991 reported road accident casualties.

However, mobile phones, the only technology category in the ‘impairment or distraction’ set of statistics, showed a higher death rate compared to other in-car distractions. The 17 deaths, set against a total of 548 casualties attributed to use of mobile phones, gives a fatality rate of 3%. Among other in-car distractions, 71 of the 4,964 related accident casualties (1.4%) proved fatal.

Edmund King, the AA’s president, said: ‘Although human distractions remain the biggest in-car threat, the figures for sat-navs and mobile phones give a warning for what might happen in the future as “infotainment” and other technology become more commonplace. The higher kill rate for mobile phone-related reported accidents provides a strong wake-up call.’

King also said that to remove the temptation factor, manufacturers should add “smart” features to in-car equipment, such as making it unavailable to drivers when the car is moving with the ability to retrofit it.

He said: ‘It is important that the potential distraction of sophisticated in-car gadgets does not overtake the excellent progress towards safer cars with features such as Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) or lane control.’

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.